Monday, October 7, 2013

Climbing L'Alp Pintlala

Yesterday morning looked to be a fine morning for going on a bike ride, to get a bit of the weekend sludge moving around the veins and breathe some fresh air. The sky was blue and the temperature nice.  So, after feeding the horses and doing a bit of farm world work, we donned our flattering padded seat pants, loaded up the bikes, and headed off to one of the rural roads that is one of the occasional ones we take a journey on. We parked the car at the Pintlala Babtist Church, over in the corner of the lot so as not to get in the way of the church goers,  snapped on our helmets, and from there, headed west. 

The first mile or so of this ride is pleasantly downhill to Pintlala Creek and is a good way to get the wind in your face and enjoy the speed of the bike with very little effort. We rode along, mostly coasting, taking in the scenery as we did.

The lush colors of the summer countryside have changed now. No longer the color of spinach, the landscape has muted to a more subtle pallet of soft olive greens, browns, yellows, and rust. It is a quieter background, lighter in feel,  and drier. The grasses are browning and rattle now when the wind blows them, and crisp leaves float through the air.

The plants that bloom now and into the fall, grow casually scattered among these browned grasses, along the sides of the road, and out in fields that have not been mowed recently. Blamed for allergies, the goldenrod with its tall mops of a garish deep yellow plumes rise tall above the grasses. Then there are purples of unknown named flowers in deepest violet to a softer pale lavender. Pinks, whites, and softer yellows blend in. I  am more partial to the changing colors because they indicate summer is leaving, or has left, and it is easy to equate them with cooler times ahead.

We rode over the bridge that crosses the creek. It is a dark area of tall old cypress trees with knobby knees rising out to the mud. Oak trees, covered with clumps of hanging Spanish Moss, stand tall among them and palmettos cover the ground below. Sand banks have built up in the bends of the winding stretch of water and the log piles and sticks piled up on them make perfect habitat for the wild things, snakes. I didn’t see one there as we quickly passed, but they are there. After the turn to Ray Scott’s place we rolled along passing some horses munching on the last shoots of green they could find, oblivious to us.

Rolling hills began giving us a bit more of a challenge but we both were hitting a pretty high speed and were feeling good. It was the fun of being a kid on a bike, wind on the face, sunshine, blue skies, and browned leaves crunched under our tires as we sped along. There are some days that are like that. You feel great like you could climb a mountain, and some that are just hard work, from either muscles being tired or attitude, or whatever. But not this day, it was all good.  We reached the end of the road where we needed to head back, and turned back around to the east.

What I had not really paid attention to on the way out, going down hill at first, and going fast, was, that there was indeed a very good breeze blowing and on the first part of the trip we were going with it, having it push us along like kites. When we turned back around, though, we were rather astonished to find that the same kindly breeze that had pushed us down the road, was now blowing like a gale right in our faces. Suddenly the little rolls in the road now became massive climbs, and there was little relief going down the other side of the hill because the wind pushed so hard that we had to peddle downhill even then for distance. We once again crossed the shady bridge and in about a mile began the long rise to the top of the hill where our car sat waiting for our now, panting selves. 

To just glance at this hill is to barely notice its rise and fall. If one were to stand, though, at the top and survey the distance one can see off down into the creek valley below, then you get a scale of how high and how long the drop actually is. It is in its deception that makes it hard to gauge, and harder to conquer. Now, add that to a stiff wind blowing straight at us from the top of the hill. I had shifted down to the highest gears I had to try to ease the pain but it was still brutal.

It reminded us of once when we were snow skiing in a blizzard, a total white out, and while crossing a long bowl, we couldn’t tell if we were moving. The wind in our face said we were, but there were no visual indicators to say one way or another. With a good pole plant we learned that were standing still in skiing position, not moving. This wind and this long incline were about doing that to us. I think it was the slowest I have ever ridden on a bike, without training wheels, and kept upright.

When we finally reached the top of Alp Pintlala, with legs burning and chests heaving for air, we coasted past the school and then the volunteer fire department. I had not noticed the flag there when we had gone out the other way. If I had I would not have felt so smug about how well we were riding along to begin with, knowing it would be a factor on our return. The red white and blue stood absolutely straight out in the wind, no ripples or pops, just straight like it had been dipped in starch. We loaded our bikes and collapsed into the seats of the car and drove home. Piety achieved, for at least one day. 
The breezes that blew so hard yesterday, were ushering in a cold front, which has left today refreshing and pleasant, and me, a bit tired. It has been a long time since the sky has been filled with little tuffs of clouds that are high up in the atmosphere and are blown into wisps and curls. Tonight just might be the first fire if it continues to go down, temp wise. We had a fellow deliver a nice stack of oak on Saturday and it sits waiting for use. The woody smell of the split logs is drifting through the screen on the back porch and brings back the scent memories of fall, and of the getting ready for the changing season ahead. I am ready. Gracie is too.

For those interested in keeping up with Frank, (Frank is the gelding I wrote about last epistle who has gone to a new owner) word is that he has gone to boot camp for sixty days to learn how to be a horse one can ride and stay on. The word from the trainers is that he is intelligent and sweet, but, I already knew that. I will post more as I hear of his progress. Meanwhile the barn world sure misses his pretty face.

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